Mixing bright lights and flash!

When mixing flash and ambient lighting we can think of these as two different exposures within the same frame. The ratio of these can vary depending on our lighting scenario or what we want to achieve….

The photo above was from a location shoot with model Luke down at Clarence Pier in Portsmouth. We wanted to use the bright neon lights and pattern of the pier frontage to provide an interesting backdrop. With our subject placed in front of a bright background using some additional flash would allow us to expose ‘correctly’ for the neon lights and Luke in one frame.

Going back to my original point we can think of this particular image as two separate exposures….one for the bright background and one for our subject. The methodology here was to find a set of camera settings where the neon lights were exposed to my taste and then use off-camera flash on Luke, metered for those particular settings, to provide subject lighting.

To demonstrate the point, here is the photo with the flash disabled…..

The camera settings used were based then on this initial exposure, which were ISO 400, f/4, 1/100. Of course, there would be a range of combinations of these which would give the same exposure but these were the settings that I settled on. How then did I arrive at these settings???

The honest answer is I cannot remember specifically! However, they were no doubt based on the line of thought that I wanted a hand holdable shutter speed & sufficient depth of field for our subject and then using an appropriate ISO to give me an exposure that looked ‘good’ when I looked on the back of camera. What I can be certain of though is the method of combining off-camera flash with a background brighter than our subject used to get to the final image.

Metering for the flash light was, in this case, also based on a couple of test shots until I got the flash power set correctly to give an exposure for Luke which I deemed correct. The flash was once again fired within my 24×24″ Lastolite Ezybox.

So in essence we have two ‘separate’ exposures here. One for the background and one for the subject.

I like to think of these as two acetate’s overlaying each other to provide the final image. This is but one lighting scenario we can have. Of course there may be times when the ratio of ambient light and flash is mixed in different amounts, which will no doubt be a subject of mine over the coming blogs!

I was also happy with the B&W version of this image….


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